White nationalist groups declared last Saturday National Hate Day, which prompted authorities and synagogues to alert the public.
The Hewlett/East Rockaway Jewish Center sent out an email to alert congregants about the supposed day of hate. Neo-Nazi and white nationalist groups threatened provocative behavior that could lead to violence.
The HERJC was in contact with local law enforcement and the Jewish Defense League to determine the appropriate way forward.
“In my conversations with Nassau County’s 4th Precinct Police Department this week,” Stephen Moelis, president of HERJC, wrote in an email sent out to congregants.
“The officer in charge of the department’s response unit indicated there have been a few sightings of flyers stapled to telephone poles, but that the department’s intelligence sources have garnered no information to warrant cause for alarm.”
Nonethless, the police precinct put added measures into place, including roving patrol cars near all synagogues in the surrounding areas throughout the day, more plain-clothes officers deployed throughout the community, assistance from the New York State Highway Patrol, and the activation of the department’s SWAT team to be at the ready should an incident occur.
“For HERJC, the question is whether Shabbat services on Saturday morning should be switched to (online videoconferencing) Zoom-only or whether our Sanctuary should be open to those who wish to attend services in person,” Moelis wrote in the email.
After careful consideration, Moelis decided that the Jewish center would hold in-person Shabbat services despite the threats.
“While we take any threat against our community and our synagogue with paramount concern, we are also mindful that the encouragement of hate must be met with an equal level of determination not to cower in fear,” Moelis said.
Program manager and organizer Kate Bitz from the Western States Center, an organization dedicated to fighting hate, said there has been an increase in these antisemitic threats.
“These groups, that essentially since the civil rights era, has found themselves on their back foot and have experienced a lot of losses during that time in terms of culture, public opinion, and legislation,” Bitz said.
“And what a lot of them decided at that point is that they needed to figure out a way to take power again.
“So the belief for many of them is that social movements for justice were actually being directed in the background by, as they probably would put it, ‘shadowy Jewish forces.’’”
According to Bitz, the Western States Center senior advisor, Eric Ward, said that antisemitism is the keystone of white nationalist ideology and without it, their beliefs wouldn’t make any sense.
“This is especially why we’ve seen Jewish communities as the target for white nationalist violence,” Bitz said.
Fortunately, the “National Day of Hate” was a “flop,” as Bitz described it.
“I was so glad to see so much work being done to make sure that community members are keeping each other informed about plans like this and stand up for inclusive communities,” Bitz said.
“Jewish communities across the country showed a lot of results on Saturday by exposing the white nationalist plans for spreading antisemitic propaganda in advance and then by asking their communities and leaders to stand up with them.”
According to Bitz, while it’s really important for law enforcement agencies to take these issues seriously, community-wide vigilance and awareness are what she believes makes the biggest difference when it comes to these threats.